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Argentine History & Modelling
IAI Dagger C-430

by Pablo Calcaterra


Argentine IAI Dagger


Trumpeter's 1/32 TBF Avenger is available online from Squadron.com



The Plane:

As it is well known, the IAI Dagger was the Israeli built Nesher, a copy of the Mirage 5 that took part in the 1973 war. Neshers were credited with ¼ of all the air-to-air claims of the Israeli Air Force. 

Being an unauthorized copy of the Mirage and due to the specs of the Israelis, this plane was quite basic, lacking a radar and modern direction finding instruments. Nevertheless, it is supersonic (Mach 2.2) and has 7 external stations for armament and fuel. For air-to-air combat it has 2x30 mm cannons and can carry 2 Shafrir missiles, quite modern during the early 70’s built out of date in the 80’s, requiring to be fired within a 20 degree cone behind the foe…the Sidewinder that equipped the Harriers could even be fired head on!

C-430 was received in the second batch of planes in 1981 and had flown by that time 607:25 hours. It was allocated to VI Brigada Aerea in Tandil, Buenos Aires Province.


The War: 

The Malvinas/Falklands war (2 Apr - 14 Jun 1982), the last colonial war of the XX century, is called by many as a minor one. Nevertheless, the ground actions lasted more days than the Gulf Wars, the British Task Force was the largest assembled since WWII, the consumption of ammunition per day was bigger than in Korea, the Royal Navy and auxiliaries ships suffered the worst casualties since WWII (7 ships sunk, 5 out of action and at least 12 more with different degrees of damage), the British infantry suffered more casualties per day than in Korea and any other post WWII conflict, some Brigades of the Argentine Air Force lost at least 30% of their planes and pilots, the Argentine guns run out of ammo,  and the list can go on…It was the first and only war fought by the Argentine Armed Forces against another nation in the 1900s, and as such, it was the debut of the Air Force. 

On April 7th, C-430 arrived to his permanent base during most of the conflict, Rio Gallegos in Tierra del Fuego. 

On the 29th, all planes received yellow ID bands on the tail and above and below the wings. Though they were supposed to be of width of 1 meter, it can be seen in the pictures of the war that the position and size varies from plane to plane. C-430 is particular because it was one of the few that had a vertical tail band and the wings ones were wider than the standard.


The Missions:


May 1st  saw the first combats of the FAA (Fuerza Aerea Argentina). C-430 was part of the I Escuadron Aeromovil “Las Avutardas Salvajes”. 

OF 1091:

Launched after the first air raids of the RAF and Task Force on the islands.  C-437 was flown by Capt. Carlos Moreno and C-430 by Lt. Hector Volponi. Their code name was TORO. Their task was to intercept the British raiders. They took off while it was still dark with 3 fuel tanks and 2 Shafrirs. When they arrived to the Islands they were informed by the CIC in Puerto Argentino (Port Stanley) that there were 2 bandits 120 miles away. The Daggers accelerated with Volponi 500 mts. on the left of Moreno and 10 degrees behind. When they were 30 miles away from the Harriers flown by LtCdr RN Robin Kent and Lt Brian Haigh of HMS Invincible and aware of the better air-to-air capabilities of the Harrier, Moreno asked the CIC to help them to be positioned on the side of the British CAP during the crossing. When the 4 planes were 9 miles away and 1 mile to one side, Moreno ordered to drop the 2 tanks under the wings, keeping the one in the center, which still had some fuel remaining. TORO 1 asked the controller to remind them to check the fuel status during the combat as the range of the Daggers was on the limit. When the radar told the TOROs that they were crossing the Harriers, the Daggers turned steeply towards the right with afterburner, trying to get on the tail of the 4000 feet lower flying SHARs. The 4 planes started to turn in a circle without seeing each other’s and when the Argentine planes were behind the British ones, these abruptly changed the direction and got behind the first ones due to their great maneuverability. CIC Puerto Argentino was periodically asking the pilots about the fuel status. Volponi in C-430 asked Moreno if he had fired a missile, as he had just seen one flying between them. It had been a Sidewinder that missed them (British reports claim that they did not fire a missile during this engagement).



After approximately 2 minutes of maneuvers, the Argentine planes were forced to break the combat as their fuel was only enough to reach the continent. At that moment, the SHARs also broke to return to their carrier. The return to their base was uneventful and thus finished the first ever air-to-air mission of the FAA.

OF 1100: 

Flown by Capt. Mir Gonzalez in C-430 and Lt. Bernhardt in C-437. Both planes were configured like in the previously mentioned OF and their code was CICLON. They took off at 12.30hs and when they arrived over the Islands were ordered to remain circling waiting for some trade, keeping 28000 feet. Moments later they were told that there were 4 bandits 70 kilometers to the North and slightly below them (British accounts say it was only a pair of planes). Mir Gonzalez accelerated trying to reach the Harriers and when they were 40 kilometers behind the British CAP, CIC Puerto Argentino informed them that these ones had turned facing them. CICLON 1 ordered his wingman to drop their external fuel tanks and seconds later the Argentine pilots were informed that the 6 planes were in the same spot. Suddenly Bernhardt saw one of the Daggers spiraling down and informed his leader. Without thinking it twice, he dived in pursuit. Mir Gonzales was about to warn his wing man that another Harrier could now slip behind his tail when CICLON 2 started to climb again, his pilot realizing that this could be a trap (as it had been described by the Spanish pilots to the Argentine ones during some letters of advice that sent before May 1st). The Harrier had disappeared under some low clouds. The Daggers closed their formation again and started to wave trying to find the other 3 remaining SHARs. After 4 minutes of search, they were forced to return to the continent due to their low fuel. At the same moment, the British planes also turned to return to their base. Another inconclusive engagement.


On May 8th, a mission to lure the Harriers into combat was planned. AGUILA section was C-430 was flown by Capt. Cimatti and C-437 flown by Capt. Robles. Once they arrived to the Islands flying at 27000 ft, the CIC sent them against a British CAP. When they were 40 km away, the Harriers turned away and the Daggers, short of fuel, started to fly back to Rio Grande. Half way to the continent, C-437 had a problem with the engine and it started to loose height. Cimatti circled the descending Robles to give him protection when after some moments and after being ordered to return to the islands to eject, the engine started to work properly again. When they were less than 200 km away from firm ground, C-430 started to have problems with the transfer of fuel from the auxiliary tanks to the main ones, so Cimatti had to drop them. And when they found that their base was covered in low clouds, C-437’s artificial horizon quit so Robles stuck to Cimatti’s planes that led him to a safe landing, with minimal fuel remaining.


May 23rd saw the transfer of C-430 and C-411 from the I Escuadron to the II Escuadron to compensate the losses this one had suffered. II Escuadron was called “La Marinete” and was based in San Julian, Santa Cruz Province. Capt. Demierre flew the plane in this occasion. 

During the early hours of the 24th the maintenance crews had to travel to the town to get green paint to cover the ineffective yellow bands with green paint. The only one they found available was light blue. They found that the surface of the planes was covered in frozen mist, so they had to remove the ice first with newspaper and then apply the coats of paint. This process gave origin to the well-known turquoise color of the A-4Cs and the Daggers of “La Marinete”. It can be seen in the picture, taken shortly before C-430’s last mission, that there is some yellow showing through.



OF 1228: 

With the British troops firmly in control of San Carlos, missions against them and the ships in the area were planned. This OF targeted the last ones. The leader of ORO section was Capt. Diaz in C-430, with Maj. Puga in C-410 and Lt. Castillo in C-419 as his wingmen. All planes were armed with 2 x 250 kg BRP bombs. They took off at 10.20 hs and where flying North of Isla Borbon (Pebble Island), at aprox 500 kt and 15 mt above the waves on their way to the target, when a British CAP intercepted them, vectored by HMS Broadsword. Diaz was in the center, with Castillo to his left and Puga on his right, each 200 mt away from his leader. Andy Auld and Dave Smith approached the Daggers from behind.

Auld fired his missiles first. Puga saw Castillo’s plane explode and warned Diaz by saying: “# 3 has been shot down by a missile” but Diaz thought he was talking about one of the preceding sections. Then Puga repeated it but added: “ORO 3 has been shot down by a missile”. When Diaz turned his head toto see Puga, he saw a zigzagging light 200 mts. behind C-410. He only had time to shout to his remaining wingman to eject, but at that same moment the second Sidewinder of Auld hit Puga’s plane. Only the cockpit and nose were outside the ball of fire and smoke. Unaware that he was being chased, Diaz ejected his external ordnance and while insisting his order to Puga that he had to bail out, turned tightly towards the South (his right) to take a closer look. By then, Smith had fired one of his missiles to Diaz.



Half way into his turn, the Argentine pilot felt a great shake and immediately all the alarms lights went on, as did the acoustic one meaning that there was a terminal failure. He immediately understood that C-430 was doomed and that he had to eject. He passed close to Puga’s still flying and burning plane and then C-430 started to climb and dive without control. As Diaz could not reach the top ejection handles, he pulled the one between his legs. The hit of the air made him believe that he had crashed with the plane into the water or the land but he realized he had ejected successfully when he saw his knees against the sky. The next moment, the parachute opened and looking down he saw the ground getting close 80 mt below him. Before landing he knew he was injured because of the pain he was feeling. He touched ground 600 mt inside the shore in great pain. At first he thought he had lost the arm as he could not feel and see it. Carefully he pulled the jacket’s right arm from below his body with his left hand, and found that his right one was still in place. Had he fallen in the water, he would had drowned as he had his right arm out of the socket and two broken vertebrae, product of the ejection above the 450 kt guaranteed by the seat manufacturer. C-430 was destroyed when it impacted the ground



As he was close to suffer a shock, Diaz drank all the water from his survival kit. After 90 minutes of gathering strength and all the indispensable items to try to walk to any house he could find, he saw a Land Rover approaching. Painfully he took his gun to fight in case they were British troops. The two men that descended from the vehicle were whispering and pointing at him. When they saw the bad shape Diaz was in, they asked his name in perfect Spanish. Relieved to have been found by Argentine troops, he dropped his gun. They were pilots of the Argentine Navy, whose T-34 had been destroyed by the raid of the SAS on the 15th. Diaz was taken to a kelper settlement and he received first aid. As nobody had seen Castillo or Puga ejecting, he thought they both had been killed and was very sad. 

In fact, Puga flew for some seconds more and he noticed one of his wings catching fire. Immediately this wing broke off and the plane rolled in that direction. With the plane turned on one side, he was able to bale out PARALELL to the sea at such a low height that his seat bounced in the water like a stone. This saved Puga’s life as it cushioned the fall when he hit the water as his parachute was partially deployed and he was still tied to his seat. Finally he was able to break free of seat and parachute lines and swam 6 hours towards the shore. He was not injured and was saved by the anti exposition suit he had helped to test during the first days of April (these suits were issued for the first time ever to the Air Force pilots after the tests Puga took part in). He spent the night on some rocks on the seaside, exhausted. On the 25th, Puga was found safe and sound and was taken to the place where Diaz was being treated. From this place, they were able to see the smoke and flames of the sinking Coventry on the 25th.

Due to the serious injuries that Diaz had, a rescue mission was planned for the 28th. Finally carried out on the 29th, it meant that a FAA Twin Otter would land in the poor runway of Borbon Island, pick up the pilots and return to the continent. While they were landed, there was a red alert. To retransmit the orders and tactical situation it was used a F-27. Now, at 18.00 and with the dark runway light with only 4 precarious lights, they took off also taking with them 4 Navy personnel and the rests of Volponi, shot down on the 23rd.  They flew skimming the waves and landed back in Puerto Deseado at 20.30 hs.


Fates of these Argentine pilots


Flew some more missions before being finally shot down and killed in C-437 by a Sidewinder fired by the Harrier ZA194 flown by Lt. Martin Hale on May 23rd, North of Bahia Elefante (Isla Borbon/Pebble Island). He was returning to his base after a failed attack on the Task Force in San Carlos, his leader being able to outrun the Harriers and return to their base.


Survived the war. He flew numerous missions during the war, the most important when he was the leader of one of the two Dagger sections that attacked and left out of combat HMS Antrim.

Mir Gonzalez: 

Survived the war. The most effective missions he flew were when he led the flight of Daggers that seriously damaged HMS Ardent on May 21st (sunk in conjunction with the Skyhawks of the Argentine Navy and Grupo 5) and on the 24th the AZUL attacked RFA Sir Bedivere. His wingman on the 29th was shot down and killed. He was…


He took part in the missions against Ardent (his bomb exploded and destroyed the hangar of the ship) and Sir Bedivere. He was the only confirmed kill of the Rapier system in the war (C-436).


Survived the war. Escorted on May 4th the Super Etendards that sunk HMS Sheffield and took part in the mission that severely damaged HMS Plymouth on June 8th.


Survived the war. Also escorted the SUEs on May 4th and took part in the attack on Sir Bedivere.


Survived the war. Led the first attack on HMS Brilliant on May 21st.


Survived the war.


As it was mentioned above, was killed on the 24th. Was a member of the other section that disabled HMS Antrim on May 21st


Survived the war. He had only logged 45 hs in Daggers and took part in a couple of attacks on ground targets.





I used the old Esci 1/48th kit that I had traded with my friend Fernando Benedetto. This is the old Mirage III so there is a lot of work to do to transform it into a Dagger. The lines are not recessed but I don’t care about it because I consider that it is too much difficult work. I chose to build C-430 because it took part in the first ever air to air combat of the FAA, it was one of the only ones armed with missiles during the conflict and had the vertical tail band.


First I used the resin seat by Aires for French planes.  To make it fit in the cockpit I had to sand the base a couple of millimeters PIC 1. I used the decals of the kit for the cockpit, but as they were old they broke in several pieces and I was force to reconstruct them. I also cut out the nose to replace it and assembled the fuselage halves along the cockpit. I had to putty and sand the union of the halves.

The nose is the Dagger one made by RD Producciones (Ricardo Dacoba)

Using the part of the Italieri kit, I copied in resin the extension of the dorsal fin. I also had to scratch built the base of the antennas on either side of the tail (more about this later…). The little sensor ahead of these bases was also scratch built.

The weight of the resin nose is enough to avoid a tail sitting plane. I had to use some acrylic base (white in the picture) to improve the union of the nose and the fuselage.

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The missile pylons came from the Italieri kit (you can see the different gray color of the plastic). The ones for the external fuel tanks were copied from the Italieri one, but as they come in one piece attached to the tanks, and to make my work easier, I cut them out from the original kit, thus having 3 pieces to make the tanks, instead of the 2 originals of Italieri. As you can see, I had to fix some holes in my resin parts. It took me a lot of work to remove the joint marks of the upper and lower halves of the wings, which are very prominent close to the underside of the leading edge.

More acrylic base was used to improve the joint of the upper side of the wings and fuselage. This product is very good because it dries solid and you don’t need to use sandpaper.

I added the supports of the air intakes. This I scratch built using some laminated plastic I have. The internal side was painted in white.

Finally I could start checking with paint the quality of my work along the unions and gave the underside the hand of very light gray FS 36622 (Modelmaster). The lid of the compartment behind the cockpit was painted in this color too and then masked.


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External fuel tanks: 

Also copied from the Italeri kit, as Esci only supplies the 500 lt version (I needed the 1300 lt ones). It was a difficult task to made the resin replicas, and finished with lots of excess, which I sanded with a lot of work. It took me 2 whole nights of 3 hours to sand, glue, putty and sand again each tank (6 nights in all!!)



The Esci ones are similar but too long to make an acceptable Shafrir. I had to short them aprox 1 cm close to the main fins. Diameter of the body and size of the fins is fine. I painted the fins in black and then carefully removed the triangular ones, as I wanted to glue them in the natural position when the plane is on the ground.



Later on I masked the black main fins, leaving the tips for the dark gray paint and the body for the white one. I removed the tip of the nose and replaced it with carefully sanded transparent plastic from some spruce of the spares box.



Painting and Markings



After masking the undersides, pylons, cockpit and exhaust, I gave the plain the first coat of nice color: TAN Humbrol 118. 

As I am getting bad with time, and not better, with the free hand technique, I was forced to use for the first time the more (apparently) time consuming paper one: check the picture, cut a piece of paper with the shape and size of the brown cammo, stick it with masking tape on top of the paint to protect. I say apparently because, if it is well done, this technique saves a lot of anger, time and retouching. It was repeated for the light green (Humbrol 117) and finally I applied the dark green (Humbrol 116).  

Then I masked the areas around the yellow ID bands and used Humbrol 24. The tail band was too wide (see that it goes over the front part of the base of the antenna, which is wrong) so I had to mask the yellow band and redo all the work with the 3 basic cammo colors!  

More careful masking and the edges of the tail fin were painted in black. Same color was given to the nose. Even though is black, the Daggers did not have a radar inside the nose. This was only a disguise.


Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

I glued the scratch built and white painted antennas on the tail, and removed the masking tape of the compartment behind the cockpit. Here is when I found that I had place the scratch built bases 1 mm too low and 2 mm ahead. Too late to fix it… 

I glued the legs in place leaving the wheels for later. The support strut of the nose one is quite tricky and required a lot of sanding to make it fit properly. Using a pencil, I highlighted all the pipes in the wheel wells.  

The painted main wheels were glued in place. The area around the guns was painted using a soft black pencil. 


I started by the Shafrirs. I took the red bands from the 1/72 Dagger kit from Aerocalcas and used the numbers of the decal sheet to write the serial number of the missiles. Then I used 4 stencils from Esci only: the yellow and black lids on the bottom of the plane (I tried to strengthen them with a coat of Future and it partially worked). The rest of the decals are from Aerocalcas. Though sometimes 2 or 3 decals make up 1 stencil, they are thin are adhere very well to the surface. First I applied the ones to the bottom of the fuselage, and then moved to the wings, where the long red strips took a lot of patience. The decals for the air brakes are not right (or the airbrakes are misshaped…) so I had to cut them in 3 or 4 pieces to shrink them and fit better. The decals for the red lines are not enough because you need some more for the triangle that surrounds the air brakes. I used some from the Mirage III set of Aerocalcas. Then I moved to the stencils of the fuselage.



Care must be taken (watch carefully the pics of the plane you want to build) as these varied from plane to plane. The yellow and red ejection seat warning are too big for the Dagger, but I did not have any other available at the time so I had to make do…I consider that the red round inspection decal is also a little bit too big. Then I moved to the serial numbers close to the end of the fuselage. Here I found that my tan cammo on the right side was a little bit too small so I was forced to misplace the serial number some millimeters. It should start closer to the tail of the plane, with probably the whole “C-4” outside the wings. The roundels and flag where applied with no problem, just careful alignment. With this the model was completely “dressed”. The black areas inside the red circles and inside the emergency ejection system behind the cockpit were painted in black using a pencil.



Finishing Touches


Daggers were given a satin finish, so I used Humbrol varnish. Then I painted the position lights, in aluminum the cone of the parachute below the tail and the landing lights and the tip of the probe ahead of the antennas in chrome silver. Drops of future covered the landing lights and the transparent nose of the Shafrirs.  

With gel I positioned the drop tanks. The little fins of the missiles where placed in a way to represent the position they have while the plane is on the ground (loose, with the rear part dropped). Then they were stuck to stations 1 and 7.  

The Top ejection seat handles were made with wire and painted in yellow and black (I discarded the originals from Esci as the shape is completely wrong).

All the landing gear doors where placed. 

The VHF antennas (dorsal in black, ventral half white and half gray) were glued with instant gel. The little air intake just ahead of the windshield was scratch built and painted in dark green.

I glued the gunsight and scratch built the two instruments dangling from the frame of the windscreen. A couple of handles of the canopy were scratch built and the rear mirrors were made cutting to shape some photo etched frames. The back of the mirrors was painted black once they had been glued to the canopy.

Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Finally I glued the windshield and placed the canopy. I found a correct in shape and length nose probe in the spares box. I painted it in aluminum and with this last part in place my Dagger was ready. 

This article is dedicated to the ones who fought for their true believes and without hate in their hearts, and specially to those who did because they were taught when they were little kids 6 or 7 years old that: “Las Malvinas son Argentinas”.





To Exequiel Martinez (his paintings of the history of the aviation in Argentina, including this war, can be seen in the buildings of the FAA across the country and were published in several books. He is a famous helicopter pilot in Argentina, who flew SAR missions during the war and lent me his panting of Volponi, which is currently on display at the VI Brigada Aerea. You can visit his website to admire his paints), Fernando Benedetto, Fabian Vera of Condor Decals, Hernan Casciani, Alejandro Serra of Aerocalcas and Vicecomodoro Claudio Marcos (FAA).

Bibliography and Sources:

  1. Dios y los Halcones (Pablo M. R. Carballo)

  2. Halcones sobre Malvinas (idem) – these two books are first hand accounts by the FAA pilots and personnel that fought in the war

  3. Historia Oficial de la Fuerza Aerea, Volumen 6 (Malvinas), 2 books

  4. La Guerra Inaudita (Ruben Moro)

  5. Ellos tambien combatieron (Guillermo Posadas) – in charge of Maintenance of the I Escuadron Aeromovil during the war

  6. Falklands Air war (Hobson) – the most reliable British source about the air war that I have been able to find so far, though in 2003 and with lots of Argentine sources to check, it still has some errors that I want to point out, among others:

    1. The claim that Garcia Cuerva’s plane had been damaged and thus decided to land in Puerto Argentino/Stanley on May 1st: he did that in fact because his plane was low on fuel due to the length of the air combat and he wanted to save his Mirage III as it was in pristine condition, as thousands of witnesses in the airport can confirm,

    2. On May 1st, the SHARs that were in pursuit of one of the Daggers (TORNO) that attacked the ships in front of Puerto Argentino turned away not because they were low on fuel but because the escorting FORTIN section of Daggers (Donadille and Senn) had got too close behind them (3 miles) and were going to get them before the Harriers were able to catch their intended prey (Roman, TORNO 2)

    3. Thomas plane was damaged by the guns of Donadille or Senn on May 21st, as these two pilots shot at a Harrier during the short engagement in which they were downed, and Thomas claim that he had been hit at Port Howard after the dog fight cannot be true as there were no AAA weapons there, except Blow Pipe missiles. So the only possible sources of damage to his plane are the 30 mm shots from one of the Argentine Daggers.

    4. Castillo was the first one to be shot down, not the last (it was Diaz) during May 24th.

  7. Air War in the Falklands 1982 (C. Chant - Osprey) – several important mistakes when dealing with the Argentine side of the air war.

  8. Guerra Aerea en las Malvinas (Benigno Andrada)

  9. Dagger & Finger en Argentina (Horacio Claria et al.) – an extremely good book, but the planes profiles must be checked against pictures of the actual planes

  10. La Batalla Aerea de Nuestras Islas Malvinas (Pio Matassi)

  11. Harrier over the Falklands (N. Ward) – a book full of mistakes and misconceptions to say the least (i.e.: on the morning of May 25th there had been no attacks from the FAA during the morning because the pilots were watching soccer games…fact is that two Skyhawk pilots lost their lives trying to attack San Carlos during the first part of the day)



Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2005 by by Pablo Calcaterra
Page Created 06 October, 2005
Last Updated 09 October, 2005

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